By Sherry L. Granader.
Summer is here, and in addition to protecting your pets against overheating, dehydration and potential ear infections from swimming, stay on the outlook for ticks and fleas. But how well do you understand the difference between these two parasites? Keep reading to test your knowledge of these two common pests.
- A flea is an insect, wingless with six legs and incredible jumping ability.
- A tick is an arachnid – it’s related to spiders and has eight legs.
- Both fleas and ticks are blood-sucking vampires.
- Fleas have fewer animal hosts than ticks: dogs, cats, opossums, coyotes, raccoons and foxes.
- Ticks enjoy additional hosts like birds, rodents, snakes, lizards, deer, squirrels, rabbits and cattle.
- Adult fleas live for more than 100 days.
- Ticks live from a few weeks up to 3 years.
- Fleas live – and die – on one host.
- Ticks live off many hosts.
- Fleas lay 20-40 eggs per day for several weeks.
- Ticks can lay thousands of eggs at one time; but then they die.
- Fleas prefer warm temperatures.
- Ticks can survive near-freezing temperatures.
- Fleas can also transmit bartonellosis (an infectious disease caused by bacteria) and tapeworm.
- Ticks carry and transmit potentially deadly viral and bacterial diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Where to Find these Parasites
So how do you find these little critters and keep them away from your beloved pets and out of your home?
Inside your House: Fleas love warmth and dark, hiding places in your home. Their eggs fall off your untreated pet onto the carpets, floors and furniture. If you find fleas on your pet, aggressively treat your home!
Grass: Grass and shrubs are teeming with flea and tick communities! Your pet passes by and they latch on for some serious dining.
Sand: Did you know that damp sandboxes make the perfect environment for flea larvae to mature and then latch on to unsuspecting victims?
Forest: The woods are alive with ticks hiding in the underbrush as well as the tips of tall grasses and weeds just waiting for a host to brush by. But don’t be fooled; ticks are now found in every kind of environment, not just the woods!
Other Animals: If other pets have passed through the space, count on finding fleas and ticks. Did you know that deer can produce up to 500,000 tick larvae a year?!
Protecting Your Pets from Ticks and Fleas
Prevention is your best line of defense. Protect your pet (and your home and even your family) with a monthly tick and flea treatment that not only kills mature fleas and ticks, but also eggs and larvae.
BEWARE: Not all flea products kill ticks. Effective treatments include sprays, powders, liquid solutions, shampoos and collars. When considering the best treatment for your pet, talk to your veterinarian. The ASPCA warns that some treatments that are safe for dogs may be toxic to cats.
Alternative treatments for natural flea and tick control can be found at the PetMD website (i.e., brewer’s yeast mixed with garlic, citrus juice and essential oils). But again, treatments vary with dogs and cats.
The Animal Planet website recommends keeping your lawn mowed and brushes trimmed because ticks tend to hide out in taller grasses and shrubs. Also treat any outdoor areas frequented by your pets with a pet-safe insecticide.
By arming yourself with knowledge and your pets with preventative care, you can keep your summer flea and tick-free!
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Stuart Richards via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)